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Iron Coffins: A Personal Account of the German U-boat Battles of World War II
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Iron Coffins: A Personal Account of the German U-boat Battles of World War II

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  988 ratings  ·  68 reviews
The former German U-boat commander Herbert Werner navigates readers through the waters of World War II, recounting four years of the most significant and savage battles. By war's end, 28,000 out of 39,000 German sailors had disappeared beneath the waves.
Paperback, 388 pages
Published June 6th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published November 30th 1968)
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Blind Man's Bluff by Sherry SontagEscape from the Deep by Alex KershawIron Coffins by Herbert A. WernerThe Terrible Hours by Peter MaasHitler's U-Boat War by Clay Blair Jr.
Best Submarine Nonfiction Books
3rd out of 32 books — 35 voters
The Metamorphosis by Franz KafkaThe Trial by Franz KafkaAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarquePerfume by Patrick SüskindFaust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Best German/Austrian Literature
260th out of 562 books — 553 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,909)
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This book is an incredible true story about a U-boat captain who survived the entire war, one of about two dozen to do so. I had previously read Das Boot by Lothar-Günther Buchheim many times, which describes the German point of view of the Battle of the Atlantic circa late 1941. Iron Coffins completed the picture, and showed both the early phase of the battle, when the U-boats nearly swept the Allied convoys from the Atlantic, and the end-game phase of the battle when most U-boat crews were sla ...more
The best war story of all times. A story by a man who was a german submarine captain and survived... it is more then a story of the war: it is a story of challenge, accomplishment, love, complete loss, and discovery .. at the setting of an immanent death.
The U-505 in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry looks like the pride of the hobbit navy.

It's customary to give statistics in a book like this -- though Herbert Werner thankfully confines his to an engineering diagram -- so here goes: The pressure hull of a Type IXC U-boat is just over 192 feet long and just under 14.5 feet wide. Given that the average American man is 5'9 1/2" with an arm span to match, you could theoretically fit two guys standing fingertip-to-fingertip across the beam of
John Onoda

I’ve read a number of books about German U boats in World War 2 and this is the best of them. The author is one of a handful of Uboat commanders who survived the war. He gives a very detailed account of what conditions were like inside the 5 ships he served in.

Unlike what is presented in most movies, life inside a U boat was rather hellish, not because of discipline or harshness, but because the ship was a hot, filthy, smelling tube of metal containing 50 men, water, fumes, dangerous gases, mac
John Humber
When I was a boy of about 13 a Royal Navy submarine came to the port where I lived. This was unusual as it was a commercial and fishing port rather than a naval port. There was an open day and it was possible to go aboard the submarine. I was fascinated and have remained fascinated by submarines ever since.

Because it was a port my home town was heavily bombed and my generation (post-war baby-boomers) grew up with empty, derelict spaces in the streets where bombs had fallen. Largely because of th
Absolutely phenomenal, amazingly written and such a page turning story. Truly one of the best memoirs I have ever read. A no holds barred look at the U-Boat war from the happy times to the last desperate gasps. Highly recommended.
This is decent read, but take some parts with a grain of salt. For example, he claims to taken part in the attack on Convoy SC122 and says that U239 sunk several ships. But U230 not recorded as having sunk anything in this convoy. In fact, there is no record of U239 actually attacking the convoy, though he peripherally took part in the operation. "Iron Coffins" contains less details about life on U Boats than about his travels on leave through France and Germany. I would have liked to see more ...more
What a hard book to read - not that it isn't eminently readable, because it is. But it also drew me in to the point of hoping the narrator (a U-boat commander in WWII) would be safe...even though he was sinking Allied ships! This book helped me see what it was like for an ordinary German serviceman during the war (although every time he was upset with "the enemy" I muttered, "You guys started it!"). Werner explained how obedience and duty are ingrained in the German people; so when the U-boats w ...more
The Authors purpose for writing this book is informative. I was thinking that reading this book would be like reading a text book. It was more like reading a good story that wasn't a real life story. This is about how the people where working on the German U boats and the ridiculous things that the German Generals would tell them to do. The author wrote this book along the lines of historical fiction. The main character was a person who was inside the German U boats. He was on his boat on D-Day ...more
Tyler Hughes
The book I read was “Iron Coffins: A Personal Account of the German U-boat Battles of World War II” by Herbert A. Werner. The book is a non-fiction book about a personal life on a German submarine. Life on the U-Boat was crowded and tiring. There was not much moving space in the U-boat so if there was an emergency you had to be ready. Life on the U-boat you required you to be ready to fight unexpectedly. Because of this they would run drills a lot which means they would wake you up.

The author’
A very complete book of the various stages of the Battle of the Atlantic from the perspective of a U-boat captain that survived. As with many WWII books, various aspects of training, equipment capabilities, and tactics are presented throughout the book. What I was unaware of was how intense the attacks on U-boats by Allied forces were during the last stages of the war. It was a miracle for any U-boat just to make it out to sea and return to base safely.
Matteo Di giovanni
La prima cosa che viene in mente dopo aver letto questo libro è: "che fortuna!" Werner infatti rende benissimo l'idea di come la vita di un sommergibilista al fronte fosse davvero appesa ad un sottilissimo filo che si sarebbe potuto spezzare da un momento all'altro in situazioni in cui la salvezza, pur essendo fortemente condizionata dall'abilità dell'equipaggio, era determinata il più delle volte dal caso. Infatti, molti camerati di Werner non sono sopravvissuti a eventi che hanno invece fortun ...more
Conor Fynes
As I have no doubt the case has been for others, I became interested in Herbert Werner's Iron Coffins on the heels of re-watching Wolfgang Petersen's director's cut of Das Boot. While Werner's memoir on submarine warfare shares the same sense of stress and suspense as Das Boot, the singular perspective of a man (and an intelligent one at that) who experienced the near-entirety of the Second World War at sea is moreso melancholic than anything else. In the last year of the war and before, the Rei ...more
Regardless of your religious beliefs, it's hard to read this book through and not believe that some higher power was watching over Herbert Werner. If the facts weren't well documented, this tale would be completely unbelievable. Every ten pages I would have to stop and share with someone what had just happened; the man went from one incredible exploit or near-disaster to the next. Not only is his story extremely compelling, but his writing style is easy and enjoyable as well. You get an excellen ...more
Engrossing, particularly toward the end when it becomes increasingly clear that the Axis is getting pummeled and the author is being ordered to undertake what amount to suicide missions. And the post-surrender chapter, which deals with prison camp life and his escapes, is fascinating.

I would have preferred less nostalgia about the bordellos and more description of what day-to-day life on the boat was like. (I was expecting the book to be more like Das Boot in this respect.) Thirty to sixty days
An astounding story of survival against all odds. He literally waited a few weeks for first assignment to find out it would never return, then sunk aboard his first submarine on his first day, but through amazing story they got it back to surface. Then he was aboard the 3rd for 30 minutes before it sunk, but spent much of the war in 4th, then survived the U-boat massacre during D-Day in a delipidated 5th as Captain, only to be on the shore to watch it sink, and scrabble for the rest of the war i ...more
Książka niewątpliwie znana fanom tematyki, często także oceniana bardzo wysoko.
Czyta się ją bardzo szybko - poznajemy wojenne/okołowojenne losy bohatera/autora, jego przyspieszone dorastanie, walkę w marynarce dla swojej ojczyzny (wraz z kolejnymi stopniami kariery), jego miłości, rozterki, a w końcu gorycz porażki i powojenne koleje losu.
Często w szczegółach poznajemy codzienne życie podwodniaków służących na U-Bootach - kurczące się zapasy paliwa i jedzenia, przenikliwe zimno, okropny gorąc, n
This was an incredible book. Hearing the story from someone that was on the loosing side of a war (Is there really a "winning" side?), makes the account much cleaner. There is no posturing, no propaganda, It's simply a soldier's story of how he believed in his country and how he believed he was fighting the good fight and victory would be Germany's because they were the "good guys" just like Britain was convinced that they were right and noble.

As the war drags on though, Werner begins to see thi
This true tale starts out dry and matter-of-fact, but gathers force in the middle part of the narrative. As adversity mounted, so did my engagement with the story. Herbert Werner is nearly unique in living through the entire U-Boat war and rising from cadet to commander in the process. His luck is positively amazing, given the hundreds of other boats that, in situations exactly like his, were sunk. The view of the war through German eyes is interesting (compare to Guy Sajer's better-written The ...more
No matter what you think of the Germans during WW II most did not belong to the Nazi party and served as soldiers on both side. This was true of most of German navy. This story from one of the few who survived the entire war serving in submarines is riveting. The story of his life both during mission and between them and the close calls and the sad reality of seeing almost everyone he knew die on subs and in the cities.
Angelo D'angelo

If you are going to read your history might as well see it from both sides of the table, I would say that I could never imagine myself surviving in one of those UBoats.
John P
This is hands-down the best book written so far about the German U Boat war. This is a real account of what it was like aboard a WW2 U-Boat.
Cam Nelson
Simply amazing. In a league with Remarque and Juenger... probably superior to them both if one actually sits down and reads their works and compares them to Werner. Nevermind what apprehensions one might have about reading a war memoir, especially one entitled "Iron Coffins"; Werner's book is a moving story of survival and heartbreak both at sea, in port, and on the homefront. The number of times Werner cheated death and escaped from the Allies defies belief. The descriptions of life in port in ...more
This is an excellent personal history of the German U-Boat war during World War II. Much of their operational technique is discussed and in that regard it is very enlightening. Their early successes where they seem to sink Allied shipping at will is matched by their very rapid demise beginning in mid 1943. Their staggering losses after that are such that the reader is amazed their crews continued to leave port.

While the book is entirely about the service of a single German sailor, the book tell
Gives an interesting perspective and contrast to the way the WWII use of submarines in the Pacific.
Read it as a high schooler. Gripping. Scared the bejeebers out of me.
Robert Lewter
Wow! What a classic. I have read U-boat commanders accounts from WWI, but this is the first from WWII.I knew that the Allies put a beat down on the German Navy, but I had no idea that the German U-boat Fleet was almost totally annihilated. This mans story was truly enthralling. I can see why this book had been read so much that some of the pages had to be taped to stay in. If you are even mildly interested in WWII history, this is a book you should read.
My co-worker, Jay, recommended this book to me and I enjoyed it very much. Herbert Werner was an amazing person, and this book succeeds because of his matter-of-fact voice combined with his experiences as a U-Boat captain and his survival. Mr. Werner doesn't embellish his experiences, but lets them stand on their own merits. One of the best books I've read about the experience of war by those who have fought it.
Iron Coffins is an excellent memoir about being in a German U-boat during WWII. Werner describes the incredible conditions that the U-boat crews underwent and provides an interesting view of France and Germany during WWII.

The books account of how anyone could tolerate the conditions and survive being in a U-boat is well worth reading for anyone interested in WWII.
Nov 06, 2007 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History folk
Shelves: top-shelf, history
I read this one after reading Shadow Divers.
It made me look at war and the people who fight wars in a whole different way.
By the end of this book I found myself cursing the British and American forces, and had to remind myself which side I was on.
This story could have been written about any sub crew from either side of the war. Wonderfully written and enlightening
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Herbert Werner was a Kriegsmarine naval officer who (by his own reckoning), was one of only about "two dozen captains still alive" at the end of World War II. He served in five U-boats, as an Ensign, Executive Officer and Captain in the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel, the North Sea, the Baltic, the Norwegian Sea and the Mediterannean.

He survived the sinking of U-612 in the Baltic and the loss
More about Herbert A. Werner...
Döden från djupet Eisiger Atlantik: Die Eisernen Särge / Feindfahrten

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